The South Carolina coast has a rich history dating back to the pre-Colonial era, but much of the early architecture has long since been destroyed by hurricanes, the Civil War and simple decay.
However, the Grand Strand is home to several former working plantation sites and structures that have been preserved over the centuries, including The Oaks Plantation at Brookgreen Gardens.
Located 15 miles south of Compass Cove Oceanfront Resort on the sandy shores of Myrtle Beach, The Oaks Plantation allows patrons to take a half-mile hike to go hundreds of years back in time.
As part of the larger 9,100-acre Brookgreen Gardens compound, The Oaks Plantation was once part of a vast rice and indigo plantation, as well as the home of the Alston family and its slaves.
As one of the wealthiest planters of the day, the Alston family home was a grand antebellum mansion that reflected the Southern aristocracy built on the bedrocks of rice, indigo and slavery.
The plantation home has long since been destroyed, but much of the original architecture has been preserved, including the slave quarters, the family cemetery and other archeological finds.
Visitors can sign up for the tour and catch a shuttle to an area closer to the compound. Patrons are guided by a historical interpreter through the grounds to the points of interest.
See the period machinery used to harvest rice, the buildings that made up a slave village, and the wetlands where slaves toiled in the South Carolina summer heat to harvest the grains.
Hear stories about how the Alston family lived, what life was like for the slaves, and how the Civil War forever changed life as both white and black knew it. It’s a piece of living history.
The 1.5-hour Oaks Plantation tours are held daily at 11:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. In addition to park admission to Brookgreen Gardens, there is an additional charge for The Oaks Plantation Tour ($8 for adults, $4 for children). For more information, visit www.brookgreen.org/
If you are looking to explore more South Carolina history during your visit to the Lowcountry, check out these nearby plantation and antebellum home tours:
Hobcaw Barony: The former winter home of Wall Street magnate Bernard Baruch and preserved by his daughter Belle Baruch, this 16,000-acre property now serves as a nature educational center. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Winyah Bay and the rivers of the Waccamaw Neck, Hobcaw Barony features a nature center, tours of the slave village, and historical tidbits about former President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spending time at the retreat for the rich and famous.
Hopsewee Plantation: Make the short drive through historic Georgetown to discover this once-thriving rice plantation, including the fully restored home that was built in 1740. Explore the home from cellar to attic, as well as the gardens, slave quarters and Black River. Be sure to stop off for lunch or tea at the River Oak Cottage and watch skilled Gullah artisans crafting hand-woven baskets.
Kaminski House: While you are in Georgetown, don’t miss the historic Kaminski House near the downtown Harborwalk district. Overlooking Winyah Bay, this classically restored home was owned by a colorful cast of characters over the years. Hear there stories and see the unique architecture that makes this home and grounds unique.
After a historic visit to the South Carolina Lowcountry, come back to the casual comfort and modern amenities at Compass Cove Oceanfront Resort, where our record for hospitality is legendary.